Dan and Hannah Return to the Scene of Major Drama – San Ysidro Falls Trail

I am so glad it wasn’t Owen or Max, Molly or Tip, Hannah remembers that early afternoon five years ago when the trail beneath her feet gave way. She ended up on a perch twenty-five feet into the canyon, fifty feet below (See the links below to recapture that 2017 experience.)

A steep cliff on the San Ysidro Trail similar to the one where Hannah fell in 2017

She also remembers the sound of a crack she heard in her head as she landed on the rocky perch.  She thinks it came from the gash to the bone of her leg as the sharp rocks ripped into her leg. I remember after supporting her for a mile and a half back down the trail from where she fell that the paramedics said to Hannah, You can choose whether you go to the emergency room with us or go with your husband, but you are going with us. The wound to the bone was so severe that the ambulance was, in fact, her only option.

Four-mile roundtrip to the falls

Nonetheless, Hannah and I choose the trail to the San Ysidro Falls in Montecito as our first winter hike of 2022.  Due to the Covid pandemic we did not return to the Santa Barbara area in 2021.  As usual, we come back this mid-January fleeing the cold and snow of our home base in Maine. 

San Ysidro Trail at the start looks pretty benign.

A mere twenty minutes from our home away from home condo in Carpinteria, we have no trouble finding parking along East Mountain Road among the multi-million dollar mansions of Montecito.

After “easy pickings” walking the level beaches of Carpinteria, we have a 1000’+ of elevation gain to the falls.  Ever since the rainy February of 2017, the falls have not flowed when we have hiked because of persistent drought.  Also the debris flows of January 2018 that killed 23 local residents have scoured the ravine to recontour the terrain; deadly 15’ diameter boulders littered the ravine.

Guard rails along the trail

The first mile of the trail is a wide fire road with gravel and small rocks here and there on the trail.  Not so pleasant for the feet but not difficult at all for hiking.

At the one mile mark, we head on a single trail that weaves through the forest along the south side of the still, in places, steep cliffs of the ravine.  It doesn’t feel perilous at all, though we hike closer to the mountainside than the cliffs.

Since this area has received a good deal of rain over the last three weeks, we have green grasses and lush leafy bushes flourishing along the trail.  Winter is in fact the rainy season in Santa Barbara, but you’d never know it from our eight winters here when the parched and coughing brown landscape was all we saw.  The recent rains also make us hopeful that this year we’ll see water cascading down the falls.

And that we do! Weaving our way in sight of the falls, we are plumped to see the waterfalls some 100 yards away.  Where in 2017 we were able to hike to the base of the falls, the trail no longer exists to do that any more.

Returning to the trailhead looking out to the Pacific Ocean and the distant Channel Islands.

It’s another five-star day in Paradise.  The falls are tumbling, the sun is casting its glory on us, and Hannah safely returns to the trailhead after four miles of hiking in 2022.

Six blogs of 2017

Dan Escapes with Hannah to Carpinteria, California 2022

Escape feels like the right verb for my desire to leave New Jersey as a kid. As has been noted ad nauseum in this blog, I was quite the rule follower. To break that pattern at 21, I fled first west for my senior year at Arizona State, then the next year to California for my first teaching job in Anaheim. Though I lasted but four months as a molder of young minds, the experience planted a seed in my heart for the Golden State.

Carpinteria sunset on the Pacific

A seed I have watered yearly with Hannah since 2014, except in Covid 2021. Now at the robust age of 74, I find my escape is more primal, visceral, and insistent. One, I want to take the biggest bite I can out of Maine winters. Two, I want to be active and alive outdoors in a place where warm is the calling card. California allows me to be in the great outdoors in January and February in ways I can’t, let’s be honest won’t be in the winter cold of the Pine Tree State.

Morning beach walk sunrise in Carpinteria (ten miles south of Santa Barbara)

For an outdoor guy, the Santa Barbara area of California is winter gold.

Each morning Hannah and I get to walk up and down the Carpinteria Beach before breakfast. Staying at a VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) condo literally on the Pacific Ocean, we basically fall out of bed and greet the predawn sunrise just above the lapping waves. The wet sand is easy on our feet and the shore birds wish us a good morning daily just after seven AM.

Dramatic sunrise on Monday past!
Shore birds discuss the pros and cons of the photographer
A heron of sorts on the Carpinteria bluffs with the Santa Ynez Mountains in the distance.

This past Monday, Hannah and I drive twenty miles south to Ventura to walk its promenade, pier, and beach with temps in the mid-60s.

Ventura Promenade with 60-something surfers
Beneath the Ventura Pier

On Tuesday, we drive ten miles under the bluest of sunny blue skies to hike San Ysidro Canyon into the Santa Ynez Mountains. Thursday of this week we hike to the warm pools of the Hot Springs Trail in nearby Montecito.

Returning on the San Ysidro Trail with the Pacific Ocean and the Channel Islands in the distance
Cooling her jets in the warm waters of the Hot Springs Trail

On Friday of this week, we play ping pong across the street from our condo. Abel, a local Carpinteria legend, notices we are playing with an inferior one-star ball. He gives us an up-graded three-star ball and are game improves dramatically.

Hannah balances our new, high quality, orange, three star ping pong ball

Each late afternoon, Hannah and I jump on our Cruiser one-speed, fat tire bicycles to pedal on the wet sand beach at our doorstep or along the bluffs to the Harbor Seals Rookery.

My Beach Cruiser
Harbor Seals of Carpinteria. Babies are usually born in February and March

Today, Saturday we will bike four miles south for the Rincon Classic Surf Competition.

Next Monday, we play pickleball with Santa Barbara friends, Claudia and Bill, in Montecito just below the coastal mountains.

Maine I love you, I truly do, but…California steals my heart two months each winter.

544A PT, 844A ET on 1.15.22

Dan and Hannah Hike the Middle Head Trail in Cape Breton au Canada

Leaving the northern reaches of the National Park, we drive by the hamlet of Cape North, where five years ago we spent the second of our three nights while biking the 300 kilometre Cabot Trail.  That third morning we awoke to light rain but had no choice but to pedal on.  Here is an excerpt from Day 3 on the Cabot Trail with pictures.


Cape Breton Highlands National Park

[After six hours of biking], I dismount and walk to the door of the church with my right knee cramping and barking with the ferocity of an angry bulldog.  No one is about, and I hobble back to my bike and painfully remount.  Little do I know that I will pay for having dismounted.  The pain shoots up and down my right leg and sets up camp in my knee; I say to Hannah, “Go ahead.  I can’t go on.”  She suggests I get back on the bike and see what happens.  I say, “Please ride ahead and have Pamela [owner of the B&B where we will stay tonight] come back to get me.”

Hannah pedals on and I decide to give it a shot and put my feet in my toe clips and let the left leg carry the load.  Fortunately, I find it easier to bike than walk.  The rain having stopped, I decide to pedal as far as I can until I can go no more.  The faster I go the less painful my right knee is.  So I go for it.

Middle H past D and H ready to ride

Middle H past H chilly at brook

Middle H past H at Smokey Mt

Smokey Mountain

Middle H past D ready to ride

Middle H past H with rain gear

Today as we drive where we previously biked, we can’t believe how tediously long today’s 70 miles of paved road seems.  Trees, streams, and small houses of Cape Breton are iconic but lose their charm after all day in the bike saddle.

We motor through Ingonish, Ingonish Center up the long climb of Smokey Mountain; we are in awe of what we accomplished on the third day of our biking adventure five years ago.

A little after 5P this afternoon, we turn off the Cabot Trail, snake our way for two kilometres by the Keltic Lodge to the trailhead for our third modest hike of the day (see map above).  Choosing the rocky and rooted trail to the south, we hike through the woods, with the occasional view through the pines to the cliffs above the Atlantic.

Middle H 1 trail out

Middle H 3 rocky trail out

Middle H 4 cove

The trail back is level and pleasing to the feet, but we are hiking-and-driving-weary at 630 PM, yet grateful for another hour of wilderness hiking 700 miles from home.

Middle H 7 D on trail back

With an hour drive back to Laverne and Gordon at their Baddeck Riverside B&B, we are coming home.  Pulling in at 730P, we are greeted by Laverne mowing the lawn who says that we’ve been waiting for you (with a “so glad you are here” vibe), shower if you’d like, and we’ll sit on the front porch with wine before dinner.

We relax high above the Baddeck Riviere.

Cleanse Beddeck River

Click here for the full account of Day 3 of our biking the Cabot Trail five years ago and click here for the final Day 4.

Dan and Hannah and the Harbor Seal Rookery in Carpinteria, California

HS quiz

I have a ten-question quiz for you.  There are no grades.  By the way, I have taken this quiz myself and scored zero for ten.  These ten questions deal with opportunities within walking distance of where you live.

Can you walk to the grocery store?

Can you walk to the library?

HS Alcazar

Can you walk to a movie theatre?

Can you walk to the beach?

Can you walk to the local farmer’s market?

Can you walk to the post office?

Can you walk for a morning cup of coffee and sit outside in winter?

Can you walk to fast food (e.g. Taco Bell or Subway)?

Can you walk to upscale restaurants (e.g. Slye’s in Carpinteria where Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi went for their anniversary dinner last month)?

Carp 2A H by Carp State Beach sign first day

Can you walk to a state park?

You must be thinking, I don’t live in Mayberry, Dan!

Even so, how did you do?

Many of us live where not one of these is an option.  If you have ever been to our place out on Chases Pond Road in York, Maine, you know that though we live in one version of paradise, we do not have much chance to walk to anything but Chases Pond itself.

Ah, but Hannah and I have found a winter home-away-from-home in the walkable small town of Carpinteria, California; a mere ten miles to the south of Santa Barbara that checks all the boxes.

You might be thinking, lucky ducks.

Indeed, we are quite the fortunate waterfowl.

HS 1B daytime at rookery

Harbor seals in the early morning

And by the way, there is a number eleven in this walkable town – we can walk the local oceanside trail to the harbor seal rookery.  More often than not, each evening this past February, Hannah and I made the three-mile round trip to see the harbor seals during their birthing season.

HS 3 lots of seal and pups late feb

As the sun sets on the harbor seal rookery

From any of the local neighborhoods, we can jump on the coastline trail that is in sight of the sandy Carpinteria Beach and soon climbs above the cliffs of the Pacific.  Once past the pier, we first see Harbor Seal Watch volunteers before we spot the seals themselves.  Recording new births and total number of seals, the volunteers have street-size stop signs warning people away from the beach where the harbor seals lay.

Protected by federal law, the harbor seals are not to be disturbed by humans or animals.  On one of our late afternoon visits, we saw a dog (coyote-like but it had a collar) come to the nesting area.  Immediately, the seals and their pups, scared and shaken, flopped from their sandy beach into the waves and deeper water.  The dog didn’t aggressively approach any seals and interestingly didn’t bother the one pup who couldn’t make it to the water.  That pup was in the throes of dying as nature took its course.

HS 2 dog chasing seals

Zero in at the center of the picture of the dog that chased that harbor seals (upper left) into the ocean

HS 2A close up of dog

Close up of the dog.  By the way, the seal watcher asked me to take this picture and send it to her phone so she had evidence of the disturbance

To support the Federal Marine Mammal Act, the volunteers staff the cliff above the rookery from 7A to 7P, seven days a week for one 2-hour shift from December through May.  Click here for more information about the Carpinteria Seal Watch.

Weighing in the range of 300 pounds, harbor seals mature in 4 to 7 years and live to a ripe old 40 years of age.  When they dine, they prefer fish, squid, clams, and shellfish.  Ranging from the Bering Sea in Alaska to Baja California in Mexico, the harbor seals come ashore in the rookery areas like this one, known as “haul outs.”

HS 3A close up of seals late Feb

Look carefully and you can see many of the harbor seal moms with their pups

Every week, the local Carpinteria Coastal View News tabloid has a review of the past weeks news from the rookery.  At the end of February as we are leaving California, there are 150 seals and 25 pups.  They note 1200+ Visitors from across the country and the world, and no surprise that Maine is listed due to our many drop-ins.  They list the Disturbances when harbor seals were chased into the ocean by a balloon, a jogger on the beach, a fishing boat, and a helicopter.

HS mom and pup 2

The review includes National History Notes.  Carpinteria harbor seals typically give birth to a single pup between mid-February and mid-March.  In the womb for eight to nine months, the pup at birth, usually on land, gushes out suddenly.  Gulls are attracted to the scene, which is usually how volunteers and visitors know there has been a birth.

Twice Hannah and I were there minutes after a birth of a pup, which typically weighs 8 to 20 pounds.  Perched high above the sandy beach, we could see the blood red of the afterbirth that the seagulls were clamoring for.  Soon, after shooing away the gulls, mom nurses her pup, which she will do for six weeks.  At that point, she leaves town and the pups have to fend for themselves.  Talk about Dragon Mothers.

HS 5 gulls and afterbirth

Minutes after giving birth, the mama harbor seal protects her pup from the seagulls who want the bloody afterbirth

After checking out the latest pup counts, we return by way of the shoreline trail, through the Carpinteria State Park, popular with the RV and tenting crowd, and head home by way of the quarter mile state park boardwalk fifty feet from the high tide line.

As a latter-day Crabapple Cove (of Hawkeye Pierce of MASH fame), Carpinteria checks all the boxes for a walkable small town.

Dan and Hannah Explore Ojai, California with an Assist from Penny

Unity of SB

Rev Larry of Unity of Santa Barbara speaking on Collateral Beauty

When we travel, the hikes are cool, the scenery beautiful, yeah, yeah, yeah.  But the best part are the people; whether here in California or elsewhere in the United States.

During our stay on the Central Coast of California, pickleball has been ideal for meeting people in Ventura and Santa Barbara; in addition, becoming a part of the Unity of Santa Barbara connects us with kindred spirits.

Mitch with take out


To build further connections, I have a brilliant idea for your consideration.  My best friend from my childhood in Fair Lawn, NJ was Mitch Kaplan.  We played Radburn Rec basketball as sixth graders together, took the buses and subways to Yankees games across the Hudson River into the Bronx, played dice baseball, had our hearts broken by the young women in high school, and even played on the high school tennis team together.

Mitch above waist shot


While I moved away to live in California, Arizona, and then eventually Maine for 35 years, Mitch returned to our childhood home in Radburn (section of Fair Lawn) after earning his BA from Antioch College in Ohio and his MFA at NYU.  Despite the distance, we stayed in touch; in part thanks to my frequent visits to see my mom and dad, who for many years still lived across the park from Mitch and Penny’s house.  Which brings me to Penny.

Mitch skiing

Mitch on the slopes, an athletic passion I did not share

Meeting in California, Mitch and Penny later married in Yellow Springs, Ohio with Mitch in a Boston Bruin jersey.  The cliché fits – he walked to the beat of his own drum and orchestra.  As we each approached retirement (he from a successful career as a writer and me after a run as a school and college teacher), golfing together loomed big in our future.

And then, damn it; he died from leukemia and its treatment.  He was 61.  That’s now more than eight years and counting of double bogeys and three putt greens we missed.

Ojai map

Carpinteria is ten miles south of Santa Barbara on the coast

After he passed, I kept in touch with his wife Penny who remained near to their two kids in the East.  Having grown up in Fillmore, CA, Penny came to mind when Hannah and I began traveling to California in winter; I soon realized how close Fillmore was to our month-long condo in Carpinteria.

Ojai 2 D and H with Emma and Theresa at Cafe Emporium

Dan, Hannah, Emma, and Theresa at the Cafe Emporium, Ojai

So, here’s where the brilliance comes in.  (I think you’ll soon see that I’ve checked that box.)  I asked Penny if she had any old (as in dear) friends in Fillmore that might like to have a cup of coffee with Hannah and me when we explore the town for a day.  It turns out she has a high school friend in nearby Ojai (pronounced Oh-hi) and sends me Emma’s email address.

Ojai 2B foursome at Libbey Bowl

At the in-town, just off the main street, Libbey Park

I email Emma, who responds enthusiastically that they are early risers and would love to have breakfast with us this early February Friday.  Encouraged to try the Ojai Café Emporium just off the main drag in Ojai, Hannah and I meet Emma and Theresa in a nook of the cafe.  Filling us in why they like living in Ojai, they tell us of their joy in walking to town to get coffee, the pleasure of being away from the cold of New Mexico, and their love of the temperate climate.

After learning their backstory, I mention, in response to their question about mine, that my first teaching job was in Anaheim, 35 miles south of Los Angeles; it was a short-lived job because the US military was clamoring for a piece of me.  Suddenly, I find myself opening up to two women I just met about the fact that I was conscientious objector during the Vietnam War years.

That said, the government didn’t quite see eye to eye with my self-assessment.  Let me explain how I dealt with our difference of opinion.

Ojai draft lottery

After graduating from Arizona State in 1970, I lost my student deferment; in addition, the Selective Service was no longer giving deferments for teaching positions like mine in Anaheim; I was reclassified 1-A.  That was the first year of the draft lottery, which it turns out I lost in a big way.  Out of 365 dates in the year, my December 27 birthday was chosen #78.  Since everyone from #1 to #195 was to be drafted, my goose was cooked.

Ojai conscientious objector

In the summer of 1970, I informed the Selective Service I would not serve because I was a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War.  Basically, my local draft board said, no you are not; you are not a Mennonite or Amish, and anyway you need to be against all war.

Having the right to appeal, I petitioned the New Jersey State Selective Service Board to hear my case.  Fortunately for me, government bureaucracies can work slowly; it took them 10 months into 1971 to decide unanimously (5-0) that I was not a c.o. in their minds.  There is a federal appeal but only if the state board is divided.  So, I waited as an eligible and vulnerable 1-A.

Ojai make love not war

Going to Canada was not an option for me.  Too cold and too faraway.  My resolve was strong that I would never shoot a weapon.  And I waited.  Out of the blue in early 1972, I was reclassified 1-H.  That meant that every 1-A had to be drafted before I would be drafted at all.  Essentially, that meant I would not be drafted.  I never got an explanation why I was reclassified, and I never asked.

With my future noticeably brighter, I got a full-time teaching job in Tempe, AZ in February 1972, proposed to Hannah later that month, and after five years of off and on dating, we were married on July 1, 1972 in East Penfield, NY, at her father’s Christmas tree farm.

Thank you, Ojai ladies, for asking.

After breakfast in Ojai, we walked the in-town Ojai Valley Trail, a former railroad paved for bicyclists, runners, and walkers.  The mountain trails around Ojai have been off limits due to the decimated hillsides caused by the burning brush and trees of the Thomas Fire two months before.

Ojai 3 H on Ojai Valley Trail

On the paved Ojai Valley Trail, which goes all the way to Ventura on the coast

Randomly as we walk the Ojai Valley Trail, I stop what seem to me to be welcoming faces and ask why they like living in Ojai.

The first, a dental hygienist raises her arms out, and beams, the weather.  But she, too, has a story to tell about the Thomas Fire.  After the first flames could be seen in the mountains, all four roads out of Ojai were closed, sealing the town off from the outside.  Scary was her word since she and the other townspeople didn’t know if the fire would come down to their valley to destroy their homes as it had for whole neighborhoods in Ventura the day before.

Ojai 3D OVT

Ojai Valley Trail

Another thirty-something, says she likes the small-town nature (7,400 residents) and the climate.  A gentleman in his 80s adds that he appreciates that the town council wants to keep Ojai the way it is, they don’t have an expansionist mentality.  He agrees it is expensive to live here.  A lower end house in town can go for $600,000.  Ouch, California real estate.

With four miles of in-town trail walking in the books at near 80F, Hannah and I return to 63F Carpinteria 20 miles back to the coast, pleased that my checked box idea produced such dividends.









Dan and Hannah Come to Ventura, California for Pickleball Magic

Every so often, Hannah and I talk about the words we’ll put on our tombstones.  It’s not a heavy at all, in fact, ironic and light.  Truth be told, upon cashing in our chips, we will donate our bodies to the Medical School at the University of New England (Maine); ergo, there will be no headstone.  Still, we think what words would capture our legacy.  Recently, Hannah’s latest thought is There.

BA he tried

For me, my latest is He Tried.  Let me explain.

Since coming to California, Hannah and I have been transitioning from a focus on hiking to one on pickleball; as we turn 70, we are focusing on growing relationships over the physical challenges of climbing mountains and hiking to waterfalls.  When hiking, it’s just the two of us, with the occasional brief conversation with others along the way.

On the other hand, pickleball opens doors for new relationships.  At new pickleball venues, we have two to three hours of playing, talking between games, and finding out what we have in common, athletically and individually.  Longtime readers of this blog know of the magic we had in north Georgia with the Yonah Mountain Pickleball Club.  That association led us a pickleball club party and overnights with two couples in their homes.  Click here for that blog.

BA ventura map better

Last year during our February month in California, we played afternoon pickleball in Santa Barbara.   Though we made no connections, I reached out and gave it a shot.  Though I came up empty, one could reasonably say, He Tried.

But this year in addition to pickling in Santa Barbara, we are branching out by playing in Ventura (18 miles south of Carpinteria on The 101) Saturdays on the outdoor pickleball courts at the De Anza Middle School.

BA 1 PB group shot

Ventura Pickleballers with the Mainers

Arriving in Ventura on the Saturday before the Super Bowl, we have a mix of men and women, mostly seniors.  Hannah and I eventually find our level, she with the women and me with the guys.  As indoor players, we are learning to adjust to the wind as well as hitting overheads with the sun in our eyes.

BA ventura guys

Dan, John, Leonard, and Rodrigo on the Ventura pickleball courts

Encouraged and sensing a good vibe, Hannah and I return the following Saturday for more play.  After our two hours, we sit in collapsible patio chairs, shooting the breeze with the other players.

BA 2 ventura pickleball design

Pickleballers Bruce and Anneli with the club logo

As Hannah and I walk from the courts, I spot Bruce and mention how much I enjoy his dinking soft game (i.e. hitting short shots just over the net) and thank him for welcoming us.  Exchanging business cards, we go our separate ways.  Later on the ride home after mentioning my conversation with Bruce, Hannah mentions her play with his wife Anneli, with the summation, She’s good.

With Bruce’s business card in hand and only two and a half weeks left in our stay in Carpinteria, I shoot off an email to add substance to my legacy of He Tried.

Hey Bruce and Anneli, 

Thanks for you all including Hannah and me in your Saturday pickleball games.  It’s been a treat.  We wonder if you and Anneli would like to have a cup of coffee or glass of wine in the coming week or two at our condo in Carpinteria or we’d drive to your place.   Just a thought, no pressure.  Look forward to pickleball again this Saturday.   Dan

(The next day, we get this email from Bruce.)

BA 1 at Snapper Jacks counter

Anneli, Bruce, and Hannah at the Snapper Jack’s counter

Hello Dan and Hannah,

 It is very nice to have you two playing with us while you are visiting California.  We would enjoy an off-court visit. Will your schedule allow a lunch time visit next week?  Since you offered to come to Ventura, perhaps a stop at our office next week followed by a walk into downtown Ventura? We have several preferred spots for fish or steak tacos if you like.   Bruce

It’s always easier staying home, sitting on the couch reading, watching television, or wasting time on the computer or smart phone; there’s no risk.  Ah, but there’s often little reward.  I want more than being homebound and gagged and give it a shot.  Hence, He Tried.

Ten days later, driving down The 101 right on the Pacific Ocean to Ventura, we meet Bruce and Anneli at their office.  Intrigued by his career as an architect, I find his explanation of the houses and businesses he designs fascinating.  Fortunately he has Anneli to run the show as the business manager.  In addition, Bruce volunteers to teach 3rd graders architecture (i.e. perspective drawing).

BA 1A Snapper Jack's sign

Having recommended fish tacos for lunch, Bruce and Anneli walk with us to Snapper Jack’s Taco Shack a few blocks away on Main Street.  Rocking at 1P, Snapper Jack’s is where we’ll have our very first fish tacos.  As you know, when in Rome…

Following Bruce’s lead, I order one soft corn and one crispy flour fish taco with a side of rice and refried beans with tortilla chips to boot.  Already, I am thinking we must bring our grandsons, Owen and Max, here when they visit next year.

BA 1B 4 eating fish tacos at snapper jack's

Al fresco in February with Bruce, Anneli, Dan, and Hannah.

Similar to our walk and talk in twos to Snapper Jack’s, the conversation over lunch flows easily as they are both interested in us as well as share their interesting, active lives.  A cliché works here.  Two hours fly and it’s like we have new old friends.  It’s magic.

Returning to their office, as they do have jobs, we hug good-bye, and part as Bruce says, Thanks for reaching out.  He gets it.  He appreciates the effort.  It’s always worth trying, especially if I am going to earn my epitaph He Tried.

BA 3B H on pier

Hannah a way out on the Ventura Pier

Taking Ash Avenue to the walkway across The 101 to the Ventura Pier and Ventura Promenade at Surfer’s Point at Seaside Beach, we see a lone female surfer, head to toe in a wet suit.  On a windy afternoon, we walk out the pier and celebrate another sunny day during the “rainy” winter season in southern California.

BA 4A D on ventura promenade

Palm-lined waterfront Ventura Promenade

Taking the stairs down off the pier, we have a wide waterfront walkway along the Pacific Ocean with the Ventura Fairgrounds to our landward side.  With the wind up, we are still comfortable in shorts knowing in two weeks winter is going to slap us in the face.  March is still real winter in Maine.

I wonder, were the fish tacos really that good?  Or was it the company while eating the fish tacos the reason why they tasted so good?  I’d go with door number two.

As a long-time believer in Davy Crockett’s Some days you get the bear, and some days the bear gets you, I am content with my epitaph, He tried.

Dan and Hannah Celebrate a Mini-Reunion of the FLHS Class of 1966 in California

It all began quite innocently.  And then yours truly, not knowing the intricacies of Facebook, made a social faux pas.  But a faux pas that morphed into fabulosity.  Let me explain.

Roz Thomas fire 2

While planning for our February on the Central Coast of California with Hannah, I read online about the Thomas Fire which burned nearly 300,000 acres in the mountains above Santa Barbara and Carpinteria and leveled entire neighborhoods in Ventura.  With these wildfires raging mere miles from our soon-to-be VRBO condo in Carpinteria, I notice that Gerry Moss, a childhood friend from the Radburn section of Fair Lawn, New Jersey, posted that his sister’s Ventura house burned to the ground.

Though we ran in different circles, Gerry and I grew up in idyllic Radburn in the 1950s and 1960s – cul de sac living where ever street ended at a park.  We were part of the same rec program as well as attended Radburn School together at the far end of the park.

Roz Thomas fire 2

So, when I heard about the devastation of his sister’s house, I thought, what if Hannah and I take his sister and hubby out for breakfast when we are in California?  A modest gesture to be sure, but modest gestures are usually worth making.  I didn’t know them at all, but I knew Gerry and so I reached out to him.

Roz D and Gerry Moss

Dan and Gerry

This is where my naivete about Facebook comes in.  I didn’t have Gerry’s email, so I contacted him directly through the Fair Lawn High School Class of 1966 Facebook page.  Little did I know that that meant I would be contacting everyone in the FLHS group.  Unaware of Facebook messaging, I appreciated Gerry gently letting me know of that option and suggesting that we use it to communicate privately.  My bad, but then my good.

As it turns out, Gerry and his wife Irene were coming to support his sister Ruthann and her hubby Jerry during five days in February when we would be nearby in Carpinteria.  He suggested we get together.  Then it gets even better.

Roz 1 five of us with cake

Linda, Dan, Roz, Gerry, and Paul with our 70th Birthday Cake

Smiling on me, the reunion gods brought my breakfast invitation intentions to classmate Roz, who lives in the area, and Linda from Seattle, who would be traveling to the area with her hubby Rich.  Roz offered her place as a mini-reunion venue and contacted others to join us.  Fortunately, my high school tennis teammate, Paul, arranged to come.

Roz cropped sweatshirt


With five members of the Fair Lawn High School Class of 1996 set to meet, Hannah and I drive south on The 101 through Ventura, Oxnard, and Camarillo to Roz and her husband Jeff’s place in Westlake Village.  As I drive, I wonder if any of these other four felt like they were a part of the in crowd?  As is well-documented, I was three or four orbits out from the in crowd and spiraling into some black hole of the galaxy.

Roz class reunion

Having last seen this group six plus years ago at our 45th class reunion, I felt the outsider then, since I hadn’t seen any of these classmates, well, for 45 years.  But it was Roz and Linda who came to my rescue and supported me in feeling like I belonged.  I was the principal’s son, had stuck to my small group of friends during my high school years, and was an introvert, not rocking in the confidence department.  Linda and Roz, probably didn’t know at the time how much their kindness meant to me that night; you see what I mean about the power of small gestures?

Having had such a good time at the 45th Reunion, I was primed for our 50th.  And then I wasn’t.  Though I had purchased the $125 ticket, I bailed at the last minute.  My high school buddies weren’t going.  My closest friend had died, others were in parts unknown, estranged from anything Fair Lawn, and others didn’t survive the hallucinogens of the Sixties.  What would it matter if I went?  Who would care?  I stayed home.


Mom (51) and Dad (56) circa 1972.  Any resemblance with me and my dad?

Today provided a little chance for redemption as I stepped out of my comfort zone.   Greeting me at her door, Roz says, You look like your father.  Whoa, no one has ever said that to me.  She adds, He had a rounder face, but you look like your father.  Not five minutes later, unaware what Roz had said, Gerry says the same thing.  Really?  I had no idea.

Roz D and Roz

Dan and Roz.  We were partners at our high school graduation

As to the in-crowd question?  None of us felt we were.  If you weren’t a female cheerleader, student council or class president, or a big time male athlete, you had a hard time breaking into the in-crowd.  Amazingly, there were no high school team sports for girls in the mid-1960s in north Jersey).  Membership in the in crowd seems insignificant now.

Roz D and Paul

Varsity Tennis Players, Dan and Paul

Talking with my tennis teammate Paul, I relived what was one of the best parts of my high school days – the varsity tennis team.  The camaradery with teammates gave me the feeling of belonging.   In addition, my small group of friends were the best; but my high school classes were often lectures with little student-to-student interaction.  With my dad as principal, I felt constrained, feeling like always had to be on my best behavior.  Obedience became my default persona; it took years to shed that facade.

Roz Paul, Linda, and Dan

Paul, Linda, and Dan

Getting together with my classmates today, reminds me now how I felt then that I was always competing.  I competed for grades (No Einstein, I graduated 61 out of 596 from high school); I competed on the social scene for high school girlfriends and come up empty; I competed on the tennis team to be #1, but almost always felt nervous on match days.  I didn’t have as much fun as I could have.  Years later, as a senior at Arizona State, thanks to my guys, I began to loosen the shackles of other people’s expectations.

I could have used a little Lao-Tzu back in the day.

Be simply yourself and don’t compare or compete.
– Lao Tzu

Roz five of us with sweatshirt
One more time.  Dan, Gerry, Roz, Linda, and Paul

Today, I am rarely competing with anyone.  I hike with Hannah, where we don’t  compete; we both finish at the same time!  I am recreational pickleball player and avoid tournament play.

Today, I am loving being with these classmates and their spouses on a day that will be one of my favorites in California.  Mostly at peace, I am just so damn happy for their successes and their good fortune in love and life.

Thank you, Roz, Gerry, Paul, and Linda.  Til we meet again.

And by the way, I am ready for our 55th class reunion.  Really!  I am not kidding.

Dan and Hannah Return to Goleta Beach after Fire and Rain

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain. – James Taylor

Montecito Thomas fire

Along The 101

It was the most violent rain in 200 years, following the biggest wildfire in state history, on the heels of the most dehydrating and devastating drought in modern county history. The Thomas Fire left the top few inches of the front-country slopes baked and seared into a fine, crumbly powder. The sustained heat cooked the chaparral, coaxing from it a waxy liquid that oozed onto the soil and functioned like a sheet of glass. The rains struck with biblical fury. Six-tenths of an inch in five minutes. Imagine a downhill demolition derby with 10,000 John Deere tractors dive-bombing Montecito, disking the hillsides as they go.  – Dr. Ed Keller, professor of geology, UCSB.

Whoa.  Nothing like a geologist to put the recent natural disaster in California’s Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties into perspective.  Before Hannah and I came to Carpinteria on the Pacific coast for the month of February, I’d been reading about the Thomas Fire and the deadly mud and debris flows in nearby Montecito.

Let me back up and set the scene.

In December of 2017, wildfires blasted the vegetation (mostly very dry brush from years of drought) on the mountainsides above Ventura, Ojai, Carpinteria, Montecito, and Santa Barbara.  Two of our favorite hiking canyons, San Ysidro and Romero, were closed since the trees of these steep ravines were burned to the roots.  The fire was so intense it burned the organic matter in the soil, leaving pulverized dust, providing no stability for a firm trail foundation.

Montecito House

Montecito Mud and Debris

And then it got worse.   On January 9, 2018 heavy rain fell on these hillsides into these same canyons causing mud and debris flows that washed away and knocked houses off their foundations; it sent car size boulders onto the main north/south highgway (The 101), closing it in both directions for nearly two weeks.

As the clean-up continues, our hiking options have narrowed, but we do have an old reliable hike – a mellow cliff walk from Goleta Beach State Park along the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara.  Alas, this area, far from the fires and mud flows, has been compromised as well.  Let me explain.

GB 1 Montecito Mud on Goleta Beach

Montecito Mud comes to Goleta Beach.  UCSB buildings in the background.  Cliff trail in the distance.

Driving 20 miles north from our VRBO (Vacation Rental by Owner) condo in Carpinteria, we wonder if we will even have access to the parking lot at Goleta Beach State Park.  Over the last month, dump truck after dump truck (100 loads per day) bring the mud (not debris) from the January mudslides.  Though examined for non-mud materials, there is enough bacteria in the mud that swimming and surfing is currently not allowed in the area.

GB 2A cliffs with warning sign

Cliff walk harborside near UCSB

Once the pungent, tree-burned, dark mud is dumped on the beach and pushed out into the low tide areas by bull dozers, the high tides start to work their magic.  Within 24 hours, the tide has washed the mud out to sea, leaving the sandy elements of the muddy soil to replenish the beach itself.

GB 2B H with warning sign

It turns out we are able to park at Goleta Beach, though we and the rest of the public are barred by yellow police tape from walking within 400’ of the mud dumping zone.  Taking to the UCSB bike trail towards campus, we skirt the beach and head for the fenced off cliff trail on the edge of campus.   As expected, there are no surfers off the UCSB point as we weave by the marine technology lab.

GB 3B more pacific cliffs bueno

Cliff walk facing the Pacific Ocean

Climbing stairs to the vista above the Pacific, we see school kids who have come for a nature field trip.  Just two are listening to the guide, and the rest act middle school bored, so wanting to check their phones.  Passing to their inland side, I appreciate that leading field trips with middle schoolers is in my distant past.  When I retired from 41 years of teaching seven years ago, I never looked back.  Greener pastures, hikable trails, and pickleball courts awaited.   Previously we have come to these bluffs on weekends, so it is not surprising to see fewer walkers, students or visitors on the trail.  Click here for our 2016 cliff hike and here for our 2017 hike.

GB 3A pacific cliffs with D

Bomber at the Pacific

Returning by way of the lagoon and then through campus, we see that UCSB students are living the dream, sitting on the student union lawn facing the Pacific in shorts soaking in the sun.  By the way, tuition and fees in 2017-2018 for California residents are $14,409, for out-of-staters it’s $42,423.  Room and board for each of the 24,000+ students is $16, 218.  At this highly competitive public university, the high school GPA averages are roughly 4.10 (they take a slew of AP classes, I’m guessing) and SATs are 600-750.

At the change of classes near 1P, kids on cruisers (one speed bikes) and skate boards, male and female, glide to class on specially marked trails to separate them from the walkers.

Carp 2B D by mud on Carp Beach

Mud comes to the Carpinteria Beach

Returning to Carpinteria for an evening walk on the beach, we see the same pungent dark mud that we saw earlier at Goleta Beach State Park.  Within 100’ of the mud spread, we start to smell a pungent, burnt wood odor; it is overpowering.  Whereas, in Goleta Beach there are no domiciles within a half mile of the dumping, here in Carpinteria the oceanfront condos have the nasty mud lapping near their walls.  To quote the kids, gag me with a spoon.  Check out the video below of the dumping process.

Heading for our condo, we find the town roads are covered with the sheen of dark red mud.  Street sweepers go up and down the streets constantly keeping the dust down and sweeping up the surface mud.

Swimming and surfing here at the Carpinteria Beach is also verboten and will stay so for more than a month.  Like others, we occasionally walk the beach mornings and evenings, but we do not mess with the bacteria-infested mud.  All is not perfect in paradise.  But it is still paradise.

Dan and Hannah Find Their Small Town Dream in California


Carp 4 sunset

Sunset at Carpinteria above the harbor seal rookery

Since forever, I’ve wanted to live in a small town.  I dreamed I’d be connected to our neighbors and the community at large.  As Hannah and I both turn 70, we’d like to find a town that is both small and warm in winter, so we can be active outside each and every day.   And let me tell you, we struck gold in California.  Let me backtrack to take you on the journey that led us to this small town of warmth on the Pacific Ocean.

Harry and Hazel in Radburn

My grandpa Harry and grandma Hazel on my mother’s side in front of our house in Radburn.  Circa 1960.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Hannah and I both grew up in the suburbs that had a small-town feel (she near Rochester, NY and me ten miles from the Big Apple).

In the Radburn section of Fair Lawn, NJ where I grew up, there were six houses to an acre, all on cul-de-sacs backed up to a park.  In the Erie Canal town of Fairport, NY, Hannah as the daughter of the town doctor, was known by everyone.  We had small towns in our blood from the beginning.

When first married, Hannah and I bought a home in Tempe, Arizona, the home of Arizona State University.  But we lived on streets where people kept to themselves, often staying indoors much of the time because of the heat.  (Though it’s a “dry” heat, it’s like living in an oven.)  We’d put Molly, then later Robyn in a stroller going up and down La Jolla Drive and never see another person.  This was a dead end in our hunt for a small town.

Carp 1A our driveway in January

Our driveway on Chases Pond Road in winter

In 1982, we got serious about our small town holy grail.  Moving from Arizona to seek the romantic notion of small town living in New England, we settled in the “small town” of York on the southern Maine coast.

But…we bought a house out a country road, some 2.5 miles from the center of town.  Too far to walk to town, we drove to the center of town to find the First Parish Church, the church cemetery from the 1600s, a Cumberland Farms, the York Historial Society complex of buildings, a few insurance businesses, and the York Public Library.  That’s about it.

Come 5P, the town rolls up the sidewalks for the night.  There’s no town green, no restaurants, no park, no community center.  In my mind, York is a small town in name only.

Though we still live in York, I have never given up my search for that small town.  Why even in the early 1990s, we made an offer on a house in Brunswick, Maine, primarily because of its small-town feel.  For many reasons, we backed away from that decision.

Montecito Mud 2 the 101

After the January 2018 mud and debris flows on The 101 in Montecito

And then in 2014, we started to come to California in winter, first for two weeks, then a month.  California has it all!  True there are earthquakes, wildfires, climate change-caused droughts, and mud and debris flows, but it also has progressive politics, towns where everyone can feel safe, and the warmth that allows us to hike, walk, and pickle outside in winter.

Carp 2 H by ping pong table

Hannah at Carpinteria Beach

Then in 2017, we took our grandsons, Owen and Max, to the beach south of Santa Barbara and hit the mother lode of small towns in winter – Carpinteria.

So, what is it about Carpinteria that made this small town so appealing in winter?

First, let’s be real, it’s temperate winter climate allows us to exercise outside in shorts day in and day out.

Carp map of carp

Carpinteria, ten miles south of Santa Barbara

Second, it’s location.  The town of 14,000 residents is tucked between the coastal San Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, a stretch of maybe three miles wide.  There’s little room to expand, which will keep the small in this small town for years to come.

Carp 4A small house

Modest size beach house in Carpinteria

Third, we are not smothered by traffic.  True, The 101 highway away from our beach side of town is California-clogged for much of the morning and evening commute.  But tucked between Carpinteria Avenue and the beach are nine quiet streets with modest size houses (probably less than a 1000 square feet) on streets for us to walk and for couples and kids to bike on their cruisers (one speed bikes conducive to this level terrain and the hard sandy beaches).

Carp 4C harbor seal rookery

Harbor Seal Rookery off the Coastal View Trail in Carpinteria

Fourth, there are out-of-the-way trails to walk.  To the north of the downtown is the Carpinteria Marsh Trail.  In the opposite direction past the boardwalks through the sand dunes of Carpinteria State Park, there is the Coastal View Trail to the Harbor Seal Rookery.

Carp 3 Alcazar

The Alcazar where we watched Super Bowl LII with one hundred other townsfolk

Fifth, we can walk everywhere.  It is less than a half mile to restaurants, the Alcazar Theater where we watched the Super Bowl with one hundred other townsfolks, Albertson’s, the local grocery store, the post office, Chinese takeout at Uncle Chen’s and a Subway and Taco Bell for something quick.  The library is two-tenths of mile from our rented winter condo.  And it deserves an ordinal (a number in a sequence like 1st, 2nd,..) to itself.

Carp 3A Library

Small town Carpinteria Library

Sixth, at the Carpinteria Public Library, we ask about getting a library card.  It’s free, even though we are not residents!  Its similar to the no cost emergency services (i.e., ambulances) in the county.  Last year, Hannah was transported by ambulance after her 25’ fall from the San Ysidro Trail to the local Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital for emergency surgery.  When the EMTs were working to save her leg, we learned there is no charge for the county ambulance service.  Here in the Republic of California, services are often provided for all its citizens.

PB H and D and Nancy

Pickleball on the Santa Barbara Muncipal Courts

Seventh, it’s not in the middle of nowhere.  Ten miles to our north in Santa Barbara, we have our Unity of Santa Barbara spiritual community, the Municipal Tennis Courts for pickleball, the Santa Barbara Zoo for visits by our grandsons, Owen and Max, and Trader Joe’s.  Ten miles further is the University of California, Santa Barbara bordering Goleta Beach State Park with its two-mile cliff walk.

Carp 2A H by Carp State Beach sign first day

Eighth, the beach.  Each sunny afternoon Hannah takes her beach chair and reading material to enjoy the delights of Ole Sol. Evenings we can walk the hard-packed sand.

It’s not everyone’s cup of joe, but its the small town in winter that works for us.

Dan and Hannah Love California

Carp 1A our driveway in January

Our January driveway on Chases Pond Road

Up at 3A, I check my tablet computer to learn our 735A Delta flight from Boston to Los Angeles is on time.  I then notice on the Weather Channel that 1-3″ of snow is predicted here on the coast of Maine and it is to start at 3A.  Looking outside, no snow is falling.  Hmmm.  When our friend Adele arrives at 4A to drive us to Logan Airport, there is still no snow.  On the 60 mile, one hour ride south, only once at Logan Airport does light snow fall.  No big deal.

Arriving at Logan, we are on schedule for a six hour flight to depart at 735A.  Cozied into the airport, I notice nothing of the weather outside as I am distracted by Delta’s free Starbucks coffee and my Dunkin’ Donuts blueberry muffin.  Finally, as we walk down the runway I see that there is some serious snow falling.  It’s early in the travel day, we should be fine.

Carp 1 deicing in boston

Hannah captures our plane being de-iced

We are not fine.  Two and a half hours later, we take off after the mandatory de-icing.  Take all the time you need to de-ice.  I want to arrive in LA without incident.

The six hour flight goes quickly thanks in part to the satisfaction of getting a free breakfast and the excellent Battle of the Sexes with Emma Stone.

Arriving later than expected at LAX, we still are off before 2P in our Avis rent-a-car on The 405 and soon to The 101 through urban Los Angeles to Carpinteria some 80 miles up the coast.  LA Traffic?  Not bad on a Tuesday at 2P.  That said, the twelve lane highway is full of cars, but Hannah and I cruise north in the HOV lane.  The car thermometer reads 85F.  It was 23F in York early this morning.

Carp 2 H by ping pong table

Within 100′ of the Pacific Ocean

Arriving Carpinteria by 330P, we unpack and head to the Carpinteria State Beach five blocks away.  It’s 73F and we are reminded of our love of the Golden State.

Montecito disneyland

On Halloween 1970 all the teachers at my Patrick Henry Elementary School were required on a school day to march with the kids supervising them in a parade.

Fact is, I have had a thing for California for a long time.  I took my first teaching job in the Golden State in 1970.  Right out of Arizona State University as an elementary education major, I was drawn to sunny, though smoggy southern California.  The Anaheim City Schools (35 miles south of Los Angeles) offered me a job as a social studies, science, and Spanish teacher of 5th and 6th graders at $7200 per year.  I took the job, despite never having had a single course in Spanish.

Later that year, I moved back to Arizona to start the first ten years of Hannah’s and my married life.  Then, it was 35 years and counting in Maine raising a family and trying to get our acts together.

But it was our one-time York, now California friends, Tree and Scott, who planted the seed four years ago that brought us back to the Golden State.  Over coffee and blueberry muffins at the local Roast and Crumb, Tree mentioned that they loved Maine; but too much of the winter they found running and walking outside a cold, dismal proposition.

Montecito map thomas fire

Santa Barbara is 100 miles north of Los Angeles

It was a Tom Edison moment for me.  That was exactly my first frustration with Maine winters.  Literally, within three days of that December morning, I had made January reservations for a flight to LAX (Los Angeles Airport) for two weeks of hiking up the coast of California.  For every winter since that 2014, we have returned to the Golden State.

SB Pickleball Feb 1

The wildfires came to just the other side of those near mountains.

It’s win/win.  The first win is being in the temperate winter climate of the Santa Barbara area of California.  This February 70s are predicted every day for our first two weeks.  Walking by the beach or before the town wakes up every morning before breakfast in shorts!   Hiking the canyon trails in the nearby San Ynez Mountains in shorts!  Playing pickleball in Santa Barbara outdoors in shorts!  Well, as you might have guessed, that’s the long and short of it.

Montecito snow in Maine

Nubble Lighthouse in York, Maine

The second win is we are not in Maine in the winter.  Maine is home and always will be.  But during a recent two-week period, we had brutal subzero cold with a major snowstorm thrown in for good measure; this was by far the bitterest stretch of weather we’ve had during our years on the coast of Maine.  Not a day over 20F and many days well below zero.  Three thousand miles away, Southern California looks mighty good.

Montecito Thomas fire

Thomas Fire with The 101 highway in the foreground

Despite being paradise, the Santa Barbara area has had some tough patches of late.  First, in December 2017, the Thomas Fire (named for the 358 student Thomas Aquinas College near Ventura) burned nearly 300,000 acres, making it the largest wildfire in California history.

Montecito Mud 2 the 101

Four lane 101 highway

Then a monster rain storm on January 9, 2018 sent massive mud and debris flows down the recently denuded coastal mountains and hillsides.  Montecito, a Santa Barbara suburb, was the epicenter of this disaster where 21 died and hundreds of home destroyed.  The major four lane highway (The 101) through the area was closed in both directions for nearly two weeks due to car size boulders, tons of soupy muck, uprooted trees, oceans of mud, and abandoned vehicles in the highway.  Usually, The 101 carries 100,000 vehicles through the Central Coast daily.

Montecito House

Mudslide of boulders in Montecito

Hannah heard from our good friend in Santa Barbara in mid-January before we left.

Hello dear Hannah,

I’ve just been thinking about you and Dan and your upcoming visit.  I thought that I should touch base and just be sure that you have a sense of what things are like here after the recent rains.  Highway 101 is closed indefinitely and blessed Montecito looks like a tsunami went through. 

Montecito Mud the 101

Mud and debris inundate The 101

I do not want to discourage you from coming in any way, but think you should be aware that conditions are not good.  Currently a large section of Montecito has been evacuated again so that they can get equipment in there to clean things up.  They also are continuing searching for folks who are still missing.  All restaurants and food facilities in Montecito and Summerland are closed, due to contaminated water. 

Sending lots of love.  

We were not discouraged.  California here we are!

And one more thing.  I love California because of its overwhelming support of President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012; as well as in the Presidential Election of 2016, Hilary Clinton received 7,362,490 votes and the current president just 3,916,209.  I am among my peeps.

Check out these pictures in the days immediately following the deluge and especially the before and after pictures from the Montecito mudslides and debris flows

Montecito 101 FWY

Montecito mud house


montecito side street with pole down

Montecito truck

Before and after

Montecito 101 before

montecito 101 after

Before and after

Montecito butterfly beach before

Before and after

Montecito hot springs before

Before and after

Montecito olive mill at danielson before

Click here to read why another Californian for 30 years who came from Colorado loves him some California despite its wildfires, mud and debris flows, and earthquakes.  It’s an engaging read.